Pinot Noir it is!

We identified a part of the farm which we thought would be best-suited for the vines and contacted Hennie Terblanche to do the clearing and to prepare the soil. He had done similar work for another grower in the area and we plunged into the process. Within a couple of days there was a TLB (a tractor with a scoop in front and a digging arm at the back) clearing the bush and heaping it into huge piles for burning. The cleared area looked massive and when we worked out the length of the rows and the spacing between them and did the sums it emerged that we would have space for about thirteen hundred vines (about a third of a hectare). The site was attractive because it had a gentle slope in two directions (South and West) so it would drain well. It was on the lip of the gorge where the ground fell away dramatically into the Buffels River hidden in the indigenous forest eighty meters below.

The topsoil turned out to be about 300mm deep and under it we found koffieklip and under that, heavy clay. We dug holes for soil samples and sent them away for analysis. We ordered fertilizer and lime which Hennie’s tractor driver spread and discked into the soil. Next came ridging and trellising – a massive operation. First, the ridges were thrown up by the tractor – we later discovered that the deep grooves on either side of each ridge were undesirable and I had to borrow a road-scraper and Pete’s tractor to smooth the avenues. Then the poles were planted six meters apart with stretchers anchoring the ends. An irrigation wire (to keep the drip irrigation line off the ground) was stretched 15cm above the ground and a cordon wire at 70cm which would carry the cordon arms. The vines were planted at intervals of 1.2m along the lines.

Jo has always loved bubbly and Peter and Caroline made (and still make) some of the finest Cap Classique wine in South Africa so when we chose the Pinot clones we opted for a fifty/fifty mixture of clones suitable for still red and bubbly.

Is winning the Lotto possible?

As the work went forward we experienced a rising sense of dismay at the costs. We had had no real idea of how expensive the set-up of this little bloc of vines would be. We were both earning modest salaries so we had to be very careful with our money. We didn’t know then that the costs were nowhere near over: we would still have to buy and install canopy wires and the wire-stretcher to string them, bird nets, blow sprayers and anti-fungal sprays, secateurs, cable ties, clips, weedeaters and mowers, etc., etc. Once you start picking your grapes you need fermentation tanks, barrels, bottles, labels, corks, capsules, cartons, and so on and so forth.